We asked Conor Cooney, associate director / facility management consultant at Arup, to consider the issue of take-up of facility management standards by answering three key questions: Where are we now, where do we need to get to next – and how do we get there?
Valuing and using the ISO 41001 facility management standard
Where are we now?
The role of facility management can be succinctly summarised as the creation of an environment where building users are safe, comfortable and productive.
But the practice of FM is complex. It has a wide range of stakeholders to satisfy, multiple systems and processes to be developed and performance measures that require definition - all while ensuring that core business activities have a fitting support service in place.
In reality, many organisations remain in fire-fighting mode. Often, systems and processes are not integrated with each other, while rarely do FM objectives reflect the specific needs of the business’ needs. And where good plans are implemented, the means by which to assess the plans’ performance lacks clear methodology and relevant metrics.
One of the most glaring gaps is of a “line of sight” to guide all stakeholders, within and external to the FM function, to achieve common targets.
The obvious solution is utilisation of ISO 41001, a framework tool which assists in defining business goals, FM objectives, plans, enablers and performance checks, providing the means to continually improve the FM service.
Yet strangely, the level of ISO 41001’s implementation has been underwhelming since its publication in 2018.
(It is worth noting that developing countries have bucked this trend; in the absence of any FM maturity, building owners in these countries have sought out the international standard to fill this void.)
So why is take-up so low? Is it because FM does not have the same stringent drivers as, say, those enforced on the performance of assets in the utility sector by regulators?
Perhaps FM service providers are unclear how they can best apply these principles when they are not the asset owner? It’s suggested that some of the more mature organisations have adequate systems and processes in place, although not necessarily integrated or aligned to the ISO standard.
Could it be simply that organisations are devoid of the resources and headspace to take a step back and actually consider their actual needs strategically? Or is it just that most are not even aware that ISO41001 exists?
Where do we need to get to next?
Some investors, multinationals and public bodies are beginning to recognise that strong FM governance practices are a key enabler for:
- improving reputational management, including sustainability
- deriving maximum value from operational expenditure
- mitigating risk of people and property, and
- ensuring operational excellence.
The days when individuals remained within one organisation for 20-40 years are disappearing; demand organisations are continually seeking ways to attract and retain top talent.
The introduction of “workplace” into the facility management vernacular supports this aim by acknowledging the impact workplace can have on an organisation’s investment in its place (asset) and people.
A small increase in productivity can have a substantial impact on the bottom line and the C-suite has started to identify the value which the workplace brings.
Personalisation, wellness, flexibility of space, and digitalisation of the built environment are just some of the trends leading to new ways of operating workplaces.
Now is also an opportune time to integrate sustainability in the FM solution. For example, the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have 57 direct alignments within the ISO 41000 suite of standards and guides.
ISO 41001 can help achieve each of these. There is a need to better highlight the full value of the ISO standard, not just for the benefit of the FM function but for all operations teams across an organisation.
By creating value beyond the realm of FM, the credibility of FM is enhanced. Experience indicates that increased budgets and resources are offered to those with clear vision, clear goals, defined controls of operation, targets and measurement.
How do we get there?
ISO Technical Committee TC 267 continues to promote and endorse organisations to implement ISO41001. The benefits are widely published and accepted within the FM industry. However, how this is achieved is not easily understood by those outside of the industry.
In Ireland, in conjunction with the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI), a committee has been tasked with promoting the utilisation of this standard. The plan is simply to:
- Create networks through IWFM and similar where case studies and outcomes can be shared openly.
- Source practitioners, influencers, specialists and strategic thinkers to further build the committee and sub-committees who will review the existing standards for enhancements. It also provides the opportunity to co-create new standards underway relating to sustainability, technology, pandemic response, policy and performance measurements.
- Create simple tools and guides that allow others to follow.
Being involved in the development, maintenance and promotion of ISO standards is an incredible means to demonstrate one’s knowledge; it allows one to contribute to the wider industry and offers a great sense of achievement once published.
Cooney will be participating in the IWFM Ireland Region webinar on ISO 41000 - Facility Management Standards on 24 June 2021.